IN BRIEF

ACTU pitch to help casual teachers

The ACTU aims to help casual teachers into permanent jobs through a claim to be lodged next month with the Fair Work Commission under the current review of the modern award system. “This is about the teachers, receptionists, disability support and aged care workers who are already genuinely working permanent hours and deserve to have that recognised,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney, adding that the submission is focused on workers who are permanent in everything but name, not genuine casuals such as students who work irregular shifts in bars or restaurants. “Casual employees, even if they are working regular hours, live with the knowledge that their jobs are not secure. This makes it harder for them to get loans, rent a house and get access to training and promotion opportunities," the ACTU President said. She said employers who already pay casual workers a loading in lieu of sick or annual leave would face no extra expense in giving workers those entitlements as permanent staff. There are more than 2 million casual workers in Australia.

Worldwide schools petition boosted by Malala's Nobel prize

Malala Yousafzai ... courageous.

The #UpForSchool Petition to urge world leaders to get every child into school by 2015 says it has received a huge boost by the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi (an Indian activist who has long campaigned for children’s rights). "They are both courageous and passionate champions of child rights and education and we have worked closely with them to inspire hundreds of thousands of young campaigners around the world,” petition organisers said. “We know that people power works - and we need everyone to rise. As Malala said, One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.’ Sign #UpForSchool today. Together we can build a movement no government or leader can ignore.” Malala, now 17, was shot in the head by the Taliban two years ago for defying their orders not to attend school in her native Pakistan. She became a Taliban target after delivering as public talk in 2008 titled 'How dare the Taliban taken away my basic right to education?'.

Bilingual is best

Children who speak two or more languages do better in noisy classes where teaching is disrupted by background chatter. Research by Anglia Ruskin University in the UK shows pupils raised bilingually “develop a more acute sense of words” that allows them to “remain on task” during exercises. By the age of nine, students who speak only one language tend to fall behind bilingual students in reading exercises. The researchers said this could explain why in 2013, for the first time, students from immigrant and refugee families in Britain did better in a range of GCSE subjects than those whose mother tongue was English.

Kit on anti-gay violence in Africa

An educational comic book and film about the extreme hardship and violence homosexuals face in many African countries is available from the Australian Human Rights Commission. Sogi’s Story also aims to encourage learning and awareness of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. The resource pack includes a comic, factsheet and a short video, accessible online. The materials, commissioned by the AHRC and the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, were designed in consultation with African national human rights bodies. It is a matter of concern that 41 of the 53 Commonwealth countries have criminalised homosexuality, often because rules introduced during the colonial era persist.

A croissant a day ...

A team of American educators this month toured schools in France — where the rate of childhood obesity is half that in the US — to see if a three-year-old French government program to promote food awareness and healthy eating in schools could be used to advantage in American schools. They watched pupils at a Paris school being given a croissant and encouraged to use their five senses to examine the pastries in detail and write about their experience; other experiments included bread and cheese.